A few weekends ago, I had the chance to check out the Los Angeles premiere of CARDINAL X at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. The film centers on an Asian American girl from the wrong side of the tracks who synthesizes MDMA and becomes one of the largest distributors of Ecstasy during the 80s. During the event, I was able to speak with some of the cast to learn more about their characters, what inspired them to want to be a part of this story, and what they hoped people would take away as the message of the movie.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi everyone! Thanks so much for speaking with me today! To starts things off, Angie, can you tell those who may be unfamiliar with CARDINAL X a little bit about the film?
Angie Wang: CARDINAL X is a semi-autobiographical story about a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, an Asian-American girl, who parlays her way to a prestigious West Coast university. She’s a pretty damaged girl so she kind of gets spun around by her demons and decides that instead of studying like a nice girl, and a model minority, she instead goes to the chemistry lab and mixes up her own MDMA and becomes this big ecstasy dealer in the 80s.
NC: You mention that this film is semi-autobiographical, how much of it is?
Angie Wang: I would say its tough for me to quantify the percentage but I would say probably 20-30 years of my life experience condensed into one year. All the shit happened but it may not necessarily have happened during that time frame in the film or to that person in that way.
NC: Angie, CARDINAL X, was your directorial debut. What was it like to make your first film?
Angie Wang: I loved it! People are always like, was it a dream come true, and it was but not for the reasons you think. When I was a kid growing up, I was always on the outside, I was never really like anyone else and I tried to mask who I was. To be able to take off that mask and to find people who accepted me and loved me and my story was really a dream come true.
NC: Switching gears, let’s talk about the characters of the film. Can you each tell me a little bit about your character?
Devon Libran: I play Darnell who is this guy who is really rough around the edges and he’s actually taking care of young Bree, but he’s kind of succumbed to drugs. He’s found himself in a really tough situation.
Noah Segan: Well, if you are familiar with my work, you’ll be surprised to know I’m the bad guy (laughs), it’s kind of a stretch for me. My character, Lior, he’s a bad guy, but this time he’s a bad guy in the 80s, and he’s from Israel and he’s a drug dealer. I think those are all things I have yet to have done before (laughs).
Scott Kenji Takeda: I play the character of Tommy, who is Angie’s friend in college who he meets on the first day. He’s the one that tries to keep her on the right side of the tracks, or what he believes to be the right side of the tracks, and in the process falls in love with her.
Francesca Eastwood: I play Jeanine, Angie’s roommate and unlikely best friend, and they end up having this really beautiful friendship. Jeanine is one of those girls who everyone thinks is perfect but nothing is what it looks like.
NC: What was it about CARDINAL X that made you all want to be part of the film?
Devon Libran: What drew me to this was first the fact that it was an original script and as an actor you always want to be a part of something that’s original. Also, the time period, set in the 80s, there’s so many amazing things from that time period. But really just the originality of the film. Angie and I had a really long conversation before we started shooting and she told me about who she was and what the story meant to her and how she wanted to get this story told and that really was the biggest draw for me.
Noah Segan: I was thinking about that on my way over here and I had completely forgotten, I sort of credit this to the story and to Angie, that it takes place in the 1980s and I realized that’s what I want and what I want to live in. So reading the script and making a movie that’s in that era that you are obsessed with is a good start. Then as you talk to Angie and you sort of realize that the script and the woman are impossible to break apart, you go “Oh my God I’m getting to make this film with her!”
Scott Kenji Takeda: I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that it’s an Asian-American female lead, Asian-American female director, that in itself was something that drew me to the project. Then reading the script and being part of the film that I believes needs to be told and deserved to be told, especially within the Asian-American community. I think we are just beginning to break into that and realizing that there is more to us than the stereotypical reception.
Francesca Eastwood: Honestly, the subject matter. I thought it was great. I met with Angie and it was really a blast. This was actually my first film and it’s special because of that.
NC: Lastly, what would you like audiences to take away from this film?
Angie Wang: We are fucked up in a million different ways and I feel like if we could peel back the layers of stereotypes and refrain from judging; we don’t have to love everyone but we can at least accept everyone. That’s the driving force for me right now, to realize that there is more to people than what meets the eye.
Devon Libran: I definitely think the notion of second chances and redemption.
Scott Kenji Takeda: For me the biggest message is that you never know what someone is going through and on the surface you may seem one way and you may look at someone and judge them without thinking but everyone has their stuff they are going through and you never know what that is. It’s important to be open to that, to accept everyone, and understand and appreciate them.
Francesca Eastwood: Whatever path you are on, you can define that and you can do whatever you want.